Sunday, 9 December 2018


We have now received our first batch of the lovely overseas mail.

We are seeing a lot of Harriet (5 years) these days; sometimes before school and sometimes after. Here she is with Iain who is reading the Christmas mail from Deb and family.  Underneath the letter with its photos is the card from Kim with her up-to-date photos.

Iain is explaining to Harriet that the children in these photos are her 'second cousins'.  Iain is very 'Highland' in these matters.  By that I mean he loves nothing better than to sit around the fire in Gairloch or Achiltibuie (Wester Ross) and talk about who is related to whom and how they are all 'cousins' in that part of the world.  If you have ever read Alistair MacLeod's book "No Great Mischief" you will know how there is often one person several generations back in the family tree (in his novel it is Calum Ruadh or red-headed Calum) who is a pivotal character.  It gives folk a sort of fulcrum on who they pivot their relationships to each other.

Christmas trees are going up in the town squares and public buildings. These trees are in St Pauls Church, Milngavie where there is a 'Festival of Decorated Trees' by about 20 local clubs and organisations.  Very well done! For example  the local stamp collecting society used laminated postage stamps instead of the usual baubles for their tree decorations ... clever!

Here is Harriet, with Ellie in the shadows, in a video that John took of the he and the children putting up their tree.

Ish and Alastair were recently at a rugby games in Edinburgh. Ish will be 12 years old on New Year's Eve.  Alastair will be 11 years old 6 weeks later.

And then there is Ellie (3 and 3/4 years old)!

While Mairi was having her breakfast upstairs she heard something downstairs and went to investigate... guess who is on loo?!  She just has to keep this photo for Ellie's 18th birthday!

And later in the day ... where's Ellie?

In the laundry basket in the bedroom!  [John's photo] ... what a girl has to go through to get a bit of peace!!!

Sunday, 11 November 2018



There was a Remembrance Service today to mark 100th anniversary of the signing of the World War One Armastice.

Having started primary school in Western Canada in 1950 I have memories of turning out every year at the Salmon Arm Cenotaph.  It was always a Big Thing.  Being an immigrant culture, it probably still is.

But turning to Scotland, it is a country with a long history providing regiments for war.
Laying of wreaths Milngavie

A local chap, namely I Taggart,  who is a sailing friend now in his 90s wearing both his uncle's medals (WWI) and his own (WW2).

The Milngavie Pipe Band outside my favourite coffee shop. (In the 1950s it was always the Vernon Girls Pipe Band that turned out for our small town.  I absolutely loved it ... still do!)
 * * * * * * *


The grandchildren ask questions …. 

[1] Why red poppies?

In the spring of 1915 a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields to write a now famous poem called 'In Flanders Fields'. After the First World War, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.

The exact battle he was involved in was during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium when the German army launched one of the first chemical attacks in the history of war. They attacked the Canadian position with chlorine gas on 22 April 1915.

I recall being told that my grandfather Rev. Victor H. Sansum [b. 1893 d. 1958] was gassed during the war.  Having found no other reference to the use of gas I deduce it was on this occasion. He was in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France. His regimental number was 628122 and buried in Vancouver.
[Photo: outside his house, 2843 MacDonald Ave, Vancouver probably late 1940s or early 1950s]

[2] What’s a ‘volunteer’?

Like so many of his generation Iain’s father [b. 1898 d. 1976] lied about his age in order to enlist. He joined the Seaforth Highlanders. 

This photo shows him on the left with 2 other 17 year olds and the bell shaped tents are in the background.

As a young man. He escaped the Battle of the Somme because his platoon sergeant pulled him out as there was a requirement from another regiment for a farrier i.e. someone who could shoe horses.


This is Iain's mother's father: Sergeant John MacKenzie, Seaforth Highlanders. She was always known as Barbara 'Sergeant' [MacKenzie].
He was based in Gairloch, Wester Ross.


John MacKenzie is 3rd right, 2nd row from bottom 

Postcard to J. MacKenzie, with regiment number.


These give the idea of the dress.  Note bell tents in left hand image.  We think these are Iain's mother's [MacKenzie] cousins, Gairloch.  The uniform shown in the lower image appears similar to cenotaph photo at the beginning of this post.

Lastly, a photo taken by photographer in Perth of Duke of Windsor inspecting the line in, we think, Inverness.  Garage is McCrae and Dick.  Sculpture in centre appears to be soldier with bearskin hat.


Here is a photo I took recently.  It is a gravestone that lies in the cemetery adjacent to St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney.  I do not know the person, J MACKAY; it was the date that struck me.  He died 11th November, 1918.

Monday, 5 November 2018


The Western Infirmary has been pulled down.  Below are photos of the huge pile of rubble that is all that is evident in its old site adjacent to Glasgow University.

Many of us who live on the west side of the city have memories of being in the hospital at one time or another.  It is odd to see an empty space!

* * * * * * *  AND NEARBY * * * * * * 

Glasgow Universtiy above the River Kelvin from Partick Bridge

It is coming up to 100 years since the end of World War One.  The city is gearing up for Remembrance Day this coming Sunday.  This sculpture is adjacent to Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018


It  was Uncle Alastair's birthday at the weekend. Even though he wasn't here to join us I thought it would be good to mark the day at Sunday dinner.

Marks and Spencer sell catepillers which are little chocolate Swiss Rolls with faces on them.  As it happened I had some packages in because I keep a supply for 'currency' when necessary ... like trying to Ellie out the door to the waiting car.

We ended up lighting the candles over and over and making wishes after we sang Happy Birthday. It's amazing how a small amount of money can give prolonged pleasure (especially at a time when they never stay seated for more than 2 minutes!)  It also  gives an interesting insight into the things they wish for!

 * * * * * * * *

Harriet comes to us on a Tuesday after school. We sit and draw after hearing all about her day.  I am sure that being the third of four in a family can be hard going especially when everyone is shouting for attention all the time!

I taught her to use a ruler; that is my old school ruler in the foreground. She drew a chocolate bar all marked out in squares.  But what really impressed me was, not just her dexterity for her age, but when she drew a rainbow she had the colours in the right order!  [If you struggle to remember Red, Orange, Yellow Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, there is the sentence "Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain."  I wish I had been told that when I was at school!]

We had a go at some butterflies too. Again she made wings with pretty colours. And finally she drew the shape above... "That's the butterfly in its racoon."

Friday, 26 October 2018


We spent time on the Sailing Ship Discovery which is basically now a ship-museum in Dundee Harbour. We enjoyed going through the ship as we have read books about the voyages (Scott of the Antarctic etc) and are aware of the stories associated with these exploratory trips.

I felt in a bit of a time warp ... tea boxes for supplies, coal stores, cramped spaces for ordinary crew to sleep, signal flag box 'cupboard'.

They even had a harmonium on board!

"This piano-like was presented by the people of Christchurch New Zealand to the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904 for use on board the Discovery.  It was normallly played by Lieutenant Royds and was used both for entertainment and for the Sunday religious services.  It survives in remarkably good condition considering it frequently fell over in rough seas.  

Note that each pedal is marked as being 'mouse proof'."

The metal frame of the 2 pedals has the letters MOUSE PROOF PEDAL cast at the base.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018


We spent some time exploring the Angus countryside.  Near Forfar, at a place called Dunnichen. we found The Dunnichen Stone.  It is a Pictish Stone with carved symbols on it.

Wikipedia states the symbols are:  flower, double disc and z rod and a mirror and comb

M-m-m-m...  I took the circular shape with lines above it to be an eye.

It reminded me of carvings on totem poles of the Indian bands of the Pacific Northwest.

This shows carvings by Haida Indians in the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia.  [Photo: Wikipedia]

On the mainland of British Columbia other tribes of Indians had similar artwork.  This box from UBC Anthropology Museum reminded me of the artwork on a carved ornamental paddle that my mother had from the days when she lived with her mother, father and siblings in Port Simpson, north of Prince Rupert. Her father was a minister there.  The Indian band were Tsimshian and this is an example of their artwork. 
[Photo: Wikipedia] 
[Carved paddle with similar artwork was about 10 inches long. We gave it to the museum in Victoria; never took a photo of it ... 'twas the days before iPhones!]

I wondered if the Easter Island stones had anything similar to the Pictish stones.

I had only ever read about the 'heads' on Easter Island.  They certainly did not have carved eyes in the manner of carved symbols.  These eyes are rather like 'hollows' in the stone surface.

However, when searching the internet for the topic I found:

(a) excavation has shown that these heads are part of a body which is buried 

and ....

 (b) they have carved symbols on the back.

Photos are from  UCLA archaeology publication photos  © Easter Island Statue Project

But are there any eyes?.....?

* * * * * * * * * * *   Permit me to go off at a tangent   * * * * * * * * * * *

I ran across this photo of   'Magnetic Stones, Ahu Te Pito Kura, Easter Island'

which ... again ... reminded me of the carved stones found in Scotland (in a variety of locations) which continue to be a mystery as to their function.

Photo above is mine: Hunterian Museum, Glasgow University.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

DUNDEE TRIP: No 1 post of 2 - Dundee V&A Museum and Tannadice

John organised an Autumn Break last weekend as the children were off school. We stayed in a village called Tannadice which is north of Dundee about a 30 minute drive in farmland.

We stayed in a holiday let large house called Mill Cottage. Although located near a burn (small river) flowing into the River Esk (pictured) I could not find the actual mill nor any evidence of a millstone.

 * * * * * * * * * *
 We spent Saturday visiting the new V&A museum in Dundee.  Impressive!

The waterfront.  Mairi with Harriet (5 yrs) and Ellie (3.5 yrs)

Ishie (11.80 yrs) drawing  at a desk at one of the 'hands on' displays in the large open public area.  The museum is about Design so we enjoyed looking at the exhibits and talking to some Design students about what is going on. It needs another trip to spend time in the room exhibits e.g. story of Cunard ships.

And who is this handsome fellow?!  Alastair, nearly 11 years old, was trying on the dress-up clothes at the (excellent) Jute Museum.

On the way home we visited our old neighbour Dot in Perth.  She just had her 88th birthday.  Dot still has lots of flowers (but no gnomes I noticed!).  She and Ishie in her new M&S dress that Mairi bought her posed for a photo on the back doorstep.